Austin Landmarks on the Menu
The Frisco Shop
5819 Burnet Rd., 459-6279
When Harry Akin opened the Frisco Shop in 1953, it was merely one pearl on his string of wildly successful Night Hawk restaurants. Located on (what was then) the northern outskirts of town, the Frisco Shop was the "small neighborhood diner" of the chain, built to feature Akin's patented Frisco hamburger sandwich, an extremely popular creation made with corn-fed beef, cheese, lettuce, tomato, relish, and special dressing.
Along with the Frisco, the establishment served eggs, biscuits, sandwiches, enchiladas, chili, chicken-fried steak, and the Night Hawk line of Top-Chopped and cut steaks. Immediately popular, the Frisco's menu has scarcely changed since the day it opened. When other places switched from fresh to frozen and canned ingredients, the Frisco Shop just kept on making everything by hand, and even today the same recipes are in use that were followed in 1953. Akin's well-known slogan, "There is nothing accidental about quality," has been the Frisco's guiding principle: Their hand-rolled fluffy biscuits, tender chicken-fried steak, meaty chili, crispy coleslaw, and glorious handmade pies have never fallen out of favor with the public – and the Frisco hamburger sandwich is still their No. 1 seller.
The staff has been loyal as well; Akin was also a civil rights leader who acted as an adviser to LBJ, and his businesses were among the first in Texas to desegregate. Akin hired black people and women at fair salaries when that was revolutionary, and the loyalty he inspired in his staff is still apparent today. When the Frisco was threatened with closure in 1994, longtime manager Lawrence Baker, who had joined the franchise in 1958 as a busboy, joined with Julia and R. Harry Akin, the founder's nephew, to buy the Frisco and keep it running. Though the rest of the Night Hawk chain is long gone, the Frisco Shop is still shoehorning the customers in, because, according to Baker, "We bought it and ran it the right way."
This year the Frisco was threatened again when Walgreens bought the land out from under it. Local investors Bob Cole, Darin Davis, Dr. Tom Burns, and Stan Miller stepped in and helped finance the Frisco's move one block north of the original location to a roomier, more versatile building. With a bigger kitchen and twice the seating, the Frisco Shop's future looks as solid as its past.